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AT&T admits 'big mistake' in hiring Trump fixer Michael Cohen

AFP  |  Washington 

AT&T's top said today it was a "big mistake" to hire a Donald Trump's as a after the presidential election, but maintained that the telecom giant's actions were legal and "entirely legitimate."

Randall Stephenson, AT&T's chairman and chief executive, also told employees in a message that the company's would be retiring following the disclosures of payments to Michael Cohen, the focus of a series of investigations.

"There is no other way to say it -- hiring as a political was a big mistake," Stephenson said.

"To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate. But the fact is, our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment. In this instance, our team's vetting process clearly failed, and I take responsibility for that."

recently acknowledged paying some USD 600,000 to Cohen, who is under scrutiny for accepting payment from companies and others seeking access to the White House, and for making a USD 130,000 payment to porn star

"Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged," Stephenson said.

Stephenson said would be taking over the functions of Quinn following his retirement.

AT&T, which is in the midst of a contentious court battle over its mega-deal for group Time Warner, acknowledged hiring Cohen's firm under a one-year contract at USD 50,000 per month, from January through December 2017.

The company said it hired the firm among "several consultants to help us understand how the and his administration might approach a wide range of policy issues important to the company, including regulatory reform... tax reform and antitrust enforcement, specifically our deal."

"Companies often hire political consultants, especially at the beginning of a new presidential administration, and we have done so in previous administrations," a statement added.

It said Cohen approached in the transition period between Trump's November 2016 election and his January 2017 swearing-in.

Cohen "said he was going to leave the and do consulting for a select few companies," AT&T explained.

"Our contract with Cohen was expressly limited to providing consulting and advisory services, and it did not permit him to lobby on our behalf without first notifying us (which never occurred)," it added.

"We didn't ask him to set up any meetings for us with anyone in the administration and he didn't offer to do so."

The Justice Department sued in late 2017 to block the AT&T-deal, and the case is pending in federal court following a seven-week trial.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, May 11 2018. 20:45 IST